Colorado Attorney General thinks Congress ought to safeguard small cannabis companies from Big Tobacco


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Wednesday, August 25, the attorney general of Colorado sent a letter prompting congressional leaders to grant small cannabis business owners protection from being overshadowed by Big Tobacco.

Moreover, as the landscape for federal cannabis reform continues to metamorphose, Colorado’s AG is also urging members of congress to protect legal cannabis companies from being outcast by other major industries.

“I submit this letter in response to requests for comments to that proposed law and request that the Congress engage with the states when designing a federal regulatory system that protects public health and safety,” AG Phil Weiser (D) said.

According to Weiser, Colorado is “heartened” to acknowledge the progress that is being made on Capitol Hill to stamp out federal cannabis prohibition. He also touched upon the fact that lawmakers are working to develop a regulatory framework that enables states to implement their own cannabis policies.

On the other hand, he is slightly concerned that large-scale cannabis corporations could dominate the industry if nothing is done to curb the problem. In particular, he is pressuring congressional leaders to consider the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). 

The CAOA would federally deschedule cannabis and offer social equity opportunities for small-scale industry players. It is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“We appreciate the CAOA’s efforts to preserve the integrity of state cannabis laws while simultaneously providing a path for responsible federal regulation of the cannabis industry. Given the states’ institutional knowledge, we encourage the adoption of a regulatory framework that designates the states as the primary regulatory authority,” the attorney general wrote.

Ensuring that small businesses can partake in the cannabis industry is a main priority

The importance of creating a clear legal pathway for small cannabis corporations to participate in the industry should not be overlooked, says the attorney general. 

With that being said, he argued that a national market must be established in a meticulous manner so as to create space for businesses that don’t operate on the same budget as large-scale corporations; many of which are  already gobbling up most segments.

If a national market is not rolled-out carefully and in stages, large companies, particularly existing tobacco-focused companies, will be able to move into new markets immediately, displacing and pushing out smaller players,” said Weiser, who noted that his bill will shield industry players from being obscured by large alcohol and tobacco companies.

“Without phased implementation, we are concerned these businesses will be pushed out of the market thus diminishing the social equity principles behind any federal market rollout,” Weiser continued in his letter to congressional leaders. 

He went on to say that the federal regulatory framework will have a significant impact on state public policy goals, such as equity and competition. With that being said, the repercussions ought to be “considered carefully and managed appropriately before a federal framework takes hold.”

Weiser highlighted three perks of state-level cannabis legalization in his letter to Congress

Three focal points included in Weiser’s letter to congressional leaders outlined how state-level cannabis legalization could benefit the nation. 

Firstly, he says, putting an end to prohibition minimizes the rate of incarceration for cannabis-related felonies and helps to tackle racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Secondly, Weiser proclaimed that a regulated and taxed cannabis industry has the potential to earn legal states an abundance of revenue.

Thirdly, cannabis legalization would likely dismantle the black market by providing consumers with a lawful source; something that he believes will also promote consumer safety.

The AG drew attention to the “institutional knowledge” that legal cannabis states maintain. Because of this valuable knowledge, Weiser stressed that federal lawmakers ought to “capitalize on long-standing principles of cooperative federalism” as they push ahead with reform.

One of the major obstacles standing in the way of legal cannabis sales is the proposed federal tax. Imposing extortionate federal taxes on regulated cannabis products may sway states to lessen their own taxes, thus potentially “reducing the revenue states currently rely on to implement various social equity and education programs related to cannabis.”

“Consequently, we encourage Congress to take time to consider how different measures would impact states and how federal programs can best be designed to work in tandemnot at cross-purposeswith state programs,” the letter continues.

Weiser also made a point of noting that cannabis research is lacking. He ended his letter to Congress by reaffirming his and his office’s support for federal reform legislation. Colorado’s AG intends on assisting lawmakers in crafting a legislative framework that addresses the problem points mentioned in this article.